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The Battle of Khe Sanh: 77 Days of Combat in Vietnam

The Battle of Khe Sanh was one of the longest and most controversial battles of the Vietnam War. 

Marines stack mounds of expended 105mm casings; Hill 950 is partially shrouded by clouds in the background
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  • Marines stack mounds of expended 105mm casings.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Battle of Khe Sanh was one of the longest and most controversial battles of the Vietnam War. Taking place in early 1968, the battle lasted for 77 days and resulted in the deaths of over 10,000 soldiers, both Vietnamese and American. For years after the war, historians and veterans debated whether or not the battle was a turning point in the war.

77 Days of Combat

The Battle of Khe Sanh began on January 21, 1968, when North Vietnamese forces launched a series of attacks on American-held strongholds in the region surrounding Khe Sanh. Americans didn't expect the attacks. A retreat was ordered to the base at Khe Sanh. The North Vietnamese then laid siege to the base, cutting off all supply lines and subjecting the Americans to nearly constant bombardment.

For weeks, it looked like the North Vietnamese were going to succeed in overrunning Khe Sanh. However, in early March 1968, American forces began a series of counterattacks that eventually drove the North Vietnamese back. Eventually, American forces claimed Khe Sanh. However, it came at a high cost. More than 10,000 people were killed in the fighting.

Turning Point of the War?

two rangers man a trench
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  • ARVN 37th Rangers man trenches on the southeast perimeter of Khe Sanh.

    Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the years after the war, there was much debate among historians and veterans about whether or not the Battle of Khe Sanh was a turning point in the war. Some argued that it was a significant victory that proved that American forces could win against the North Vietnamese. Others claimed that it was a costly distraction from the main goal of winning South Vietnam's support. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer; it is up to each individual to decide for themselves whether or not they believe that Khe Sanh was a turning point in the Vietnam War.

Here's how the Marines held out against the siege of Khe Sanh.

How is the Battle of Khe Sanh Observed today?

American soldiers bow their heads at a memorial service
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  • Leathernecks of the 3d Marine Division bow their heads in memory of other Marines and the soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam who sacrificed their lives during the battle for Khe Sanh.

    Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The anniversary of the battle is still observed today. Every year, on the anniversary of the battle, a memorial service is held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The service pays tribute to those who fought and died at Khe Sahn, and honors all who served in Vietnam.

Memorials of the Battle of Khe Sanh

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at the National Mall in Washington D.C. serves as a memorial site for this and all battles of the war. 


Why did America get involved in the Vietnam War?

America didn’t want Vietnam to be communist. So, after WWII, we set up a small presence there which grew and grew for several years. 

How did the country change after the Vietnam War?

Extensive media coverage changed the way Americans think about combat, conflict, and war. The Vietnam War was the longest American conflict until the war in Afghanistan. 

Is Vietnam communist?

The Republic of Vietnam is socialist.